How can we squeeze what we have left for high school into 2 years?

Dear Carrie

How can my daughter squeeze American History, Economics, Government, and Geography into her 2 remaining years of high school?

My daughter has two years of high school left after this year. This is her first year using Heart of Dakota. She is doing World History and loving it! Sadly, she still needs American History, Economics, Government, and Geography. We are trying to figure out how she can squeeze all of this into her 2 remaining high school years. I had two ideas. One, she could do HOD‘s USI and USII, which include Economics and Government. Then, maybe she could squeeze in a 1/2 credit Geography course (from a different curriculum) over the summer? Or, could just Mapping The World with Art be a ‘squeeze-in’? But, I hate for her to miss HOD’s World Geography guide and all those amazing books. She really cannot tell you where anything in the world is located.

So, that brings me to idea two. She could do HOD’s World Geography (in its entirety) and one of the American History guides. Then, I’d have her squeeze in reading a few books for the other part of American History to get the full story. Her 8th grade brother is going to be doing MTMM this next year. Maybe I could put her in that with him (with extensions and beefing up)? Then, I could have her do World Geography the next year with him. She could then just squeeze in some books to get the first part of American History. Does this sound doable? She will already be graduating a year late…she will be 19 1/2. So, we really do only have 2 more years of school to squeeze it all in.  Do you have any ideas how to squeeze this all in, and what guide to skip? Thanks!


“Ms. Please Help Us Squeeze What We Have Left for High School Into 2 Years”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Us Squeeze What We Have Left for High School Into 2 Years,”

Thanks so much for sharing about your daughter! We have some good options for her to complete what she has left for high school. We might even be able to avoid the ‘squeeze’ feeling! Since she is doing the World History Guide now, and I am assuming it is going well, it would be quite a bit of backward motion to go back to MTMM. It would be better for her to stay within the realm of the high school guides instead, just to keep forward motion and to keep her well-placed skill-wise.

Option 1: World Geography for 11th, American History I (with Government) for 12th, with Economics As a Slight ‘Squeeze-In’

With this in mind, I see a couple of options as possibilities. One option would be to do the World Geography next year for her junior year and then to do the first American History guide with Government for her final year. This would mean she would need to add as a slight ‘squeeze-in’ Economics. It might be possible to do this either with World Geography or with American History, depending on whether she does all of the credits offered within each guide. It is typically acceptable to study a portion of American History, as long as a full credit is earned in that study. So, if she did not get to the final American History guide that would be alright. She would still earn a full credit of American history for completion of the first American history guide. She would also earn another 1/2 credit for Government.

Option 1: American History I (with Government) for 11th, American History II (with Economics) for 12th, with Geography… No ‘Squeeze-In’ Required

Another option would be to do the last two American History guides (including Government and Economics) and omit the World Geography Guide. In this scenario, you would have to earn the Geography 1/2 credit you mentioned is required. There is quite a bit of mapping within both the American History guides. I’m not sure if your daughter had any mapping or geography her freshman year, but there is some in the World History guide as well, and there are definitely geography concepts regularly discussed. So, I am thinking that among the 3 HOD high school guides she would earn her 1/2 credit of Geography.

Which two HOD guides do you want her to have before she graduates?

So, then it is just a matter of deciding which two HOD guides you desire for her to have before she graduates. Do you desire for her to have the World Geography and the first American History guide? Or, do you desire for her to follow the last two American History guides? Either plan will work. If she does do the World Geography guide, I would have her do it next year, followed by the American History I guide her senior year. You could also look to determine which extra credits in the guides are most helpful (i.e. Logic, Foreign Language, Bible, World Religion and Cultures, etc.). It may also help to look at the sciences in the guides and see if she is in need of those as well. This may provide more clarity.

Either plan will work, so I’d choose the one that makes the last two years be less of a ‘squeeze’!

If she does not do the final HOD guide, she will miss British Literature. However, with the titles read for literature within the World Geography and the World History Guides, a 1/2 credit in British Literature could be awarded (alleviating that problem). The first American History guide will contain American Literature, also solving that problem. So, it truly is a matter of deciding which two guides fit her needs best! If you choose to have your daughter do the last 2 American History Guides, then she will cover Economics (earning 1/2 credit) within the final American History Guide. So, you won’t have to add that yourself! I’d just choose the plan that makes the last two years be less of a ‘squeeze’ and get to enjoying your remaining high school years together!


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A Mama with Fatigue and a Daughter Needing Time with Her

Dear Carrie

A Mama with Fatigue and a Daughter Needing Time with Her

My 8 year-old daughter was placed perfectly in Beyond. Then, she was sick for a good week. My other three children were sick for the next two weeks. We’ve all finally recovered, but it left us all so tired. My daughter has had a hard time returning to school. I’ve asked what’s wrong, and today she told me she doesn’t like to have to wait for mommy. I told her she can get out her copywork on her own. She can do the history by herself too, as I have it on CD. She keeps asking to do something together. Maybe I am expecting her to be too independent. She CAN read the history. The poetry copywork can be a bit much. I battle fatigue and other issues. For now, I’ve just put it aside. I’m too tired. She’s continuing to use CLE for some subjects, but I still prefer Beyond.


“Ms. Please Help This Mama with Fatigue Get Back to Beyond”

Dear “Ms. Please Help This Mama with Fatigue Get Back to Beyond,”

One thing that struck me in your post was your feeling of guilt over the current status of school at your house. As mamas, we can really get bogged down in guilt if we aren’t careful. It sounds like you have had a bout with sickness that has drained all of you. This is very trying on everyone, but most of all on the mama!

Encouragement to Address Both the Fatigue and the Guilt 

So, first I would encourage you to address the fatigue, and then address the guilt. To address the fatigue, I would get the kiddos to bed earlier and/or possibly let them sleep in an hour later in the morning for a few days or longer. I would also encourage you to try to get to bed earlier and to sleep a bit later in the morning, if you can. Usually after an illness, everyone’s sleep cycles are messed up. Extra sleep is needed to reset. Next, I would encourage all of you to drink a lot of water to flush out any lingering toxins. If you aren’t taking probiotic, you might consider adding something like that for a month or two. We have done so with our family and seen a difference. Vitamin D3 would also most likely be a help. It has made a huge difference in me!

To avoid further fatigue, you can return to schooling doing only half-days.

Next, I would encourage you to start back to schooling doing only half-days. This will take one hour and 15 minutes a day to do half-speed Beyond. I also think this will relieve the guilt, as you’ll feel that you are finally moving forward. I would strive to do a half day every day consistently. As far as the Beyond poetry copywork, it is up to you as the parent to decide how much she is copying each day. If she is fatigued by the amount of copywork, then she is copying too much. From what you’ve shared, I think it would be a good idea to pull her copywork back to two lines done well each day. I also wouldn’t add anything to Beyond except what is in the guide. Doing other things like CLE on top of what is in Beyond will make your daughter’s day longer.

I would make a point to read aloud the Beyond history, science, and Bible, as it is important to figure out how to go forward.

Next, I would encourage you to make a point to read aloud the Beyond history, science, and Bible to your daughter (even if she can read them herself). It is you that she is wanting, and reading aloud those areas actually goes very quickly with the history taking 5-7 minutes, and the Bible and science less than that. You can read from your bed if needed, as I know I have had to on many occasions! In sharing these thoughts, I am not intending to minimize the fatigue that you are experiencing in any way. Instead, I am wanting to encourage you to be realistic that this is a lingering part of your life right now. So, it is important to figure out how to go forward in this stage.

What to Do If the Fatigue Is Too Much to Do Half-Speed Beyond

If the fatigue is such that you cannot do Beyond half-speed, you may want to consider doing a completely independent program for a year. Then, next year you could revisit placement in Heart of Dakota. I share this because it is tough on kiddos to bounce back and forth between curricula and to be in a constant state of never really finishing anything. With this in mind, I would decide to do one or the other and set a goal to finish whatever you choose.

Questioning Our Children Isn’t Always Helpful

I would also encourage you to decide what is best for your family right now, rather than questioning your daughter to figure out what she wants. I know I often questioned my oldest son (who has graduated now) in the past. With a lack of continuity, kiddos lose their perspective as to what doing a curriculum really feels like. They can only remember parts of it, and if its been awhile since they were in the pattern of doing school with it daily, the thoughts they have about it will be scattered at best. Questioning children also gives the impression that they can pick the curriculum. It also makes them think you will stop and start things based on their will. This is honestly giving children more power than they should have at that young age.

The Importance of Making a Plan to Function Within the Current Reality

It is amazing to me in my own homeschool journey that every year sees some new situation or unexpected problems at our house that could prevent us from schooling. As the years have passed I have discovered that if I am going to homeschool, I have to make a plan of how to function within the reality that we have at the time, instead of waiting for everything to return to normal. Often, the situation we are experiencing is the “new normal.” I share this not to discourage you but to encourage you to assess the situation and see if you can school within it. Or, if you simply cannot… then to recognize that as well.

The Lord will help you and honor your heart if you lay your requests at His feet!

Sometimes, the best curriculum is the one that gets done. For us that is Heart of Dakota. For you it might not be right now. Just know that the Lord will help you and will honor your heart if you lay your requests at His feet. I pray He will surround you with His love and that you will feel His peace in your decisions.


Brainstorming for a Large Family with Just Two Children in Mind

Dear Carrie

Brainstorming for a Large Family with Just Two Children in Mind

I’m a mom of 6 children. One is married with children of his own now! My 19 year-old son is in special education in high school. I use Heart of Dakota with the rest. My 12 and 14 yo are in Revival to Revolution.  My question is about my other two children. One is in Unit 13 of Bigger Hearts for His Glory. The other is in Unit 20 of Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory.  So, it won’t be long until there are two in Bigger Hearts at different places, and then one in Preparing Hearts and one in Bigger. There is no way I can combine – I wouldn’t want to anyway. As we have a large family and these are somewhat teacher-intensive guides, I’d sure be interested in brainstorming about these two children. The rest – I have quite happily figured out. Thanks!

“Ms. Brainstorming for a Large Family with Just Two Children in Mind”

Dear “Ms. Brainstorming for a Large Family with Just Two Children in Mind,”

Brainstorming sounds like a great idea! As far as your situation goes, I would encourage you to choose one set of storytime books to read aloud to the Beyond/Bigger kiddos. I’d follow the plans for the younger guide, so you can keep this pattern going as they head into the next guide too. I would also work toward getting the kiddos who are the most ready to read from their guide to do so as soon and as much as they are able. This doesn’t always mean this will be the older child either!

Brainstorming About Reading: Whoever can read first, should!

Reading can take real time, so it’s worth brainstorming about! If your child eventually heading into Preparing is able to read his/her own history, I would encourage you to let that child do so. Or, perhaps your first Bigger student might be able to read the science (or possibly even the history). I did allow my second son to do this as he was ready in Bigger. My next little ones in Bigger could not do that though, so I read everything aloud to them.

Brainstorming About the Emerging Reader’s Set 

If you have a child in the Emerging Reader Set, I have one brainstorming tip. I find it oh-so-helpful to have that child practice his day’s pages alone first before coming to read to me. This allows the child time to peruse the pictures, figure out difficult words, and ruminate on the story. Then, by the time he/she comes to read to you the reading clips along more quickly. He/she can also answer the follow-up questions more easily. Plus, while the child is practicing on his/her own, you can work with someone else.

Brainstorming That Includes Recognizing Your Self-Starters 

If you have kiddos who are organized or self-starters, I have another brainstorming tip about them! Why not have them get out their own books and do the things they can do? My child in Bigger sang his own hymn in the morning (and we all loved hearing it fill the house). He also did his own copywork in the morning and got out his needed books by checking the guide. Of course, he didn’t do these things when beginning Bigger, but as he progressed further into the guide, he wanted to do more on his own! All of these are time savers and pay big dividends to the parent! Plus, the child is happy to be moving along rather than waiting on mama!

Brainstorming That Includes the Help of An Older Child

Here’s one more brainstorming tip! If you have an older child who is finished ahead of time and is waiting on you, have him/her jump in and help teach one box from a little one’s guide for 5-10 minutes. We do this at times with our older boys, and it helps keep things moving along (and helps me get to the older child faster).

Brainstorming That Takes Advantage of A Morning Recess Break

If you give your kiddos a morning recess break all together, here’s one more brainstorming tip. Why not use that time to check the older children’s work? This will help you make sure they are staying on track. It also keeps you on top of how the more independent kiddos are progressing (and saves derailment later in the day). Once the kiddos’ work is checked, have them clear those books away, as clutter is a joy-stealer! (At least it is for me!)

Brainstorming That Puts “Piles” to Good Use

Here’s a brainstorming tip we use that involved putting ‘piles’ to good use. We have our boys place their books/notebooks/completed work in their own pile on our kitchen counter next to our stove. Each child has his own space for his pile. That way, as time allows, we can check their work. Then, when we have checked it, we move it to the other side of the stove (in a pile). This way, the kiddos can see the work has been checked and put it away. Anything that has been corrected but needs attention, we don’t move to the other side (as a reminder for us to go back and help the child redo that subject). For our littles in the teacher-led younger guides, we check and put away as they go (not allowing them to put anything away until its been checked).

Brainstorming Ideas with the Family Working As a Team in Mind

Anyway, those are just some brainstorming ideas that may help or get you thinking of things that could help. I’m sure you already have discovered many of these things, and probably more that I haven’t listed. We try to think of our family as a team, where everyone must be willing to help one another out to get our day accomplished. If we have appointments or places to go, we will warn the kiddos the night before so they can plan accordingly and are not taken by surprise. Often, our olders might work ahead that evening or get up earlier in the morning then, so as not to be behind. We do not, however, let our littles get up any earlier on those days, as once they’re up the day is officially underway for us all.


How can I best structure our homeschooling day with my large family?

Dear Carrie

How can I best structure our homeschooling day with my large family?

I need help with how to structure our day in our Heart of Dakota homeschooling. My children are ages 13 (MTMM), 10 (CTC), 8 (Bigger), 6 (Beyond), 3 (wild toddler), and baby (nursing). We get up around 7 AM and try to have a 20 minute “meeting” to sing a worship song, review/discuss memory verses, and pray together. This tends to go long, and some of the children are grumpy. Then, we have breakfast, which is chaotic and takes 45 minutes to an hour. I really lose the focus of the littles at this point. After breakfast, my olders start their independent work. The middle, in Bigger, does math, cursive, sometimes spelling, and practices piano. I work with my 6 yo and sometimes the 3 yo.

I need to structure my 6 yo’s homeschooling and my 3 yo’s day better.

I have all the 6 yo’s hardest things first – not the best way to structure her day. We do math, copywork, spelling, and reading (TRL). TRL is pretty hard now. Generally we have to have a pep talk to get it done. Copywork takes her a long time. In that first block with my 6 yo I also do poetry and Bible. These are easy for her, and she likes them. I also take a 15 minute break to nurse the baby and put her down for her nap. Sometimes my 3 yo is just racing around with a car and making a lot of noise. I should probably find some guidelines for him, so he is not so disruptive. If I get distracted, my 6 yo often runs off or starts doing something else. Then, I have to find her or call her back, which frustrates me greatly.

I need to structure my second block of time and my oldest daughter’s day differently.

For my second block of time, I work with the 8 yo. I nurse baby again. Before lunch, I try to work with my oldest, who I’ve had to remind to get back to work often by then. (Granted, she has a very long independent block; I’m sure I’d find it difficult to work that long without a break or distraction. Not the best structure for her either!) Lunch is chaotic and long. After lunch I finish with the oldest, then the 6 yo, then the 8yo – mostly read-alouds. Baby often interrupts, as well as the other children. Focus is a problem throughout the day. When it is sunny and 70 degrees and knowing cold weather lies ahead, sometimes I just say “forget it” and don’t finish the rest of the day. I know I’m in an intensive time, but thanks for any help or encouragement you can give!


“Ms. Please Help Me Structure My Homeschooling Day Better”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Me Structure My Homeschooling Day Better,”

You have such a busy household that it is no wonder that you are finding it a challenge to school right now! Especially as you are starting new guides and also happen to be doing Beyond and Bigger at the same time (not to mention nursing a babe with a busy 3 year-old in tow)! I know that we can talk through some things that will help you find a pace that works for you. Not all of our suggestions may work, but hopefully you will find a few ideas that will be of help.

 Some Suggested Changes in Structure for Your 6 Year Old

I have a few suggested changes in structure for your 6 year-old. First, I’d shift to half-speed Beyond for while. She is on the youngest age range and is struggling a bit with the workload. Shifting to half-speed would help both you and the 6 year-old. It will also enable you to spread out your 6 year old’s tougher subjects over 2 days. I would do phonics daily. However, I’d shift to doing a very short phonics session (7-10 minutes daily). Since she’s balking at The Reading Lesson right now, you can just write the words from The Reading Lesson on a markerboard one at a time to be read. Or, you can do just half a page of each day (covering up the rest of the page, so it is less daunting). Keeping the sessions short and sweet will help make phonics less stressful right now.

Changing the Structure of Your Day by Choosing a Realistic Start Time

Second, I would change the structure of your day by choosing a start time for your teaching part of the day that is realistic. So, for example if you set your start time at 9:00 or 9:30 AM, then you won’t feel like you are behind when you do begin. Also, if your kiddos enjoy sleeping in, a later start time will allow for this. We still start my youngest child at 9:20 AM even now! That is my first formal teaching time of the day, which works for me as I am not a morning person. We do have our older kiddos begin on their own earlier, which you could definitely consider doing with your older children.

Thoughts on How to Structure Your Older Children’s Day

Our two oldest sons begin at 7:15 AM, with our third oldest son beginning at 7:45 AM. We eat breakfast at 9:00 AM, meaning breakfast prep begins around 8:30 or 8:40 AM. Our older kiddos enjoy their quiet work time before everyone else gets up. They do the same assigned independent subjects during their time each morning. This way I know what to expect they will have done and what will be left to do. When it is time for breakfast, they come and eat quickly and then return right away to their subjects. Two of my boys also do 45 minutes to 1 hour of assigned subjects for school the evening before from 8:00-9:00 PM at night. This really helps them feel like they are ahead going into the next day. They do the same assigned subjects each evening. You could consider doing this as well.

Thoughts on How to Structure Your Early Morning and Breakfast Time

Third, I would suggest a structure change of removing your group meeting time. You mentioned that this morning time often goes longer than planned and that you lose the little ones’ focus. With this in mind, I would instead make breakfast as short and succinct as possible. Assign your older kiddos breakfast clean-up chores to do while you begin working with your 3 year-old right after breakfast. I would do 15 minutes of Little Hands to Heaven (only doing half of the boxes each day). This will fill your 3 year-old’s need for attention right away after breakfast (while your olders are cleaning up). Your 8 year-old could also be getting out all needed books in preparation for you to do the left side of Bigger Hearts.

Thoughts on How to Structure Your Time with Your 8 Year-Old

After that 15 minutes with your 3 year-old, I’d structure time for either your 6 year-old or your oldest to play with the 3 year-old for 30 minutes, while you work with your 8 year-old. During this 30 minute time with your 8 year-old, I’d do as much of the left side of Bigger Hearts as possible, placing last anything on the left side he could continue doing on his own after you need to move on to teach another. After that, your 3 year-old could have 30 minutes to either watch an instructional DVD or play alone in a room nearby with quiet toys and books. He could have a quiet, calming music CD playing. A small snack may help too. During this time you could work with your oldest child to check his/her work and go over anything needed from your teaching in order to move forward.

How to Structure Some More Meeting Times and Recess

After this, I’d structure a time to have either the 8 year-old or your oldest play with the 3 year-old for 30 minutes. During this time, I’d meet with the 6 year-old to do either the left or right side of Beyond. I’d alternate left and right sides by day, since this child would be doing Beyond half-speed. During this time, the child not playing with the 3 year-old would do independent work from her guide. Next, I’d have a 30 minute group recess where they all play together. This would be your time to regroup, throw in a load of laundry, pick up, correct schoolwork, glance at dinner prep. etc. When recess is over,I’d have the child who has not yet played with the 3-year old do that for 30 minutes while you go back to working 30 more minutes with your Bigger Hearts child.

A Possible Structure for the Day After Lunch

After lunch, you could have phonics with your 6 year-old while your 8-year old works on math/cursive/copywork etc. nearby. Your three-year old could either be watching an instructional video or playing with toys or doing computer (whichever task wasn’t done in the morning). Then, I’d have one more session each with your 8 year-old and oldest child to finish out their work, and you are done! (This is assuming that the CTC child has worked earlier in the morning and/or the evening before on her school.)  Then, all could have another 30 minute recess together while you regroup.

Choosing a Structure That Focuses on the 3 Year-Old for 30 Minutes at a Time

As you can see from what I’ve shared above, I’m putting the focus on a structure that includes scheduling the 3 year-old’s day in 30 minute increments. While this seems crazy when you have so many other kiddos to be teaching, it does make sense to spend time planning around the 3 year-old. This is because a 3 year-old can derail a school day more quickly than anything else. This is usually where one of the huge stressors in homeschooling comes from! Honestly, babies are easier to morph into the mix than a wild 3 year-old!

A Structure That Takes Advantage of the Beginning of the Day’s Initial Energy and Attention Levels

You can also see from what I’ve shared above that within a few hours of starting your day you can have taught most of the left side of Bigger and much of Beyond. Likewise, you can also have checked on your older child’s work to propel that child forward. By touching base with each kiddo for 30 minutes and by planning for your 3 year-old, your day will start better. Plus, by getting started right away with individual students, rather than by trying to keep their attention as a group, you take advantage of your energy right away too in getting everyone going on their guides.

Just Some Brainstorming Ideas to Start Realistically and Strong in the Morning

Anyway, this is just to get you brainstorming about ways to start realistically and strong in the morning. Your actual schedule may differ as you know your kiddos best.   I am hoping that these ideas are an encouragement to you, as I know the load can be heavy. We all need encouragement to persevere in this calling. If it were easy, everyone would do it. Since it is not, we need the Lord, and we need one another along this path. I am so thankful for all of you, who share from your hearts as we journey together.


Help with My Son’s Hurting Hand During Handwriting

Dear Carrie

How can I help my son with his hurting hand during handwriting?

My 6 1/2 year old son is doing A Reason for Handwriting A with Heart of Dakota‘s LHFHG for 1st grade. His penmanship is pretty good, as you can see from the picture below. We got him a “claw” to help with his pencil grip. It still seems like he is holding the pencil a little tight. I am trying to turn his paper a little more each day to match his arm. But, it seems like his body and arm just move further around. He says handwriting hurts his hand. Is his hand hurting normal? Does he just need to build up stamina? He doesn’t crook his wrist particularly. I want to do something about it if there is something actually wrong. However, I’m not sure that there is. He’ll need writing stamina to do dictation in a couple of years. Do I go to an occupational therapist?


“Ms. Please Help with My Son’s Hurting Hand During Handwriting

Dear “Ms. Please Help with My Son’s Hurting Hand During Handwriting,”

At age 6 it is not uncommon to have a pretty tight grip on the pencil and to have an incorrect grip. Honestly, in my years of teaching (by the time the kiddos reached third grade) at least half of the class had an incorrect grip. I have a terribly incorrect grip myself, yet my penmanship was and is always fine. If you poll those at your own house to see who holds his/her pencil correctly, you will likely see about the same ratio as what I saw each each year in my classroom!

Thoughts on How to Help with Your Son’s Hand Hurting

I share this to let you know that you are very blessed to have a child whose penmanship is as good as your little honey’s writing looks. From my perspective, I would definitely get rid of the claw, as it can be tiring and confining to kiddos as they write. Next, I would simply work toward having your son try to point the top of his pencil eraser toward his body, rather than away from his body as he writes. He can achieve this by drawing his elbow toward his body, which will tilt the pencil toward him a bit more. This will encourage a more traditional hold. I wouldn’t focus on the grip continually though, but rather praise his writing, giving gentle hints to pull in his elbow just a bit toward his side as he writes. Make sure not to get him thinking that he has a problem area here. It is a normal part of the writing process. His handwriting is beautiful!